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Natural Medicine for Flu: Prevention and Healing

2 Feb

flu remedies

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

Local clinics and hospitals here in NH and MA have been operating at a frenzied pace since influenza became widespread. Many want to know, “Can I still avoid it?” And, “Are there natural ways to treat it?”

Flu has been ferociously widespread and flu related hospitalizations and deaths have so far exceeded all other years since the CDC has been monitoring activity.  While this year’s vaccine efficacy is particularly low due to a poor match with circulating strains, it might still be helpful in reducing the severity and duration. However, even if you are running out for one today, it still takes a couple of weeks for some immunity to kick in.

So what can you do? Fortunately, there are some natural medicine techniques which can be helpful, and I thought I’d share my favorites here, as well as a few things to avoid doing. Please be advised that nothing written in a blog post should ever be taken as medical advice. You should always seek  the advice of your own doctor.

First, let’s start with prevention. For the rest of you, I’ll give some tips and recipes to help ease your groggy, feverish, aching self.


  1. One of my personal favorites for both first line prevention and treatment of flu is elderberry syrup. It helps to limit infection from many strains of flu and other types of viruses primarily by blocking its ability to infect one cell from another. So taking it before exposure or shortly after symptoms begin is key. One that I recommend frequently to my own patients is Natures Way Sambucus Immune syrup. It also includes zinc, vitamin C, echinacea, and does not contain alcohol. Again, check with your doctor for advice before taking any natural remedies, especially for children. Elderberry and zinc can sometimes cause stomach upset, so taking it with food, and not overdoing it is key.
  2. Sleep. I can’t emphasize this enough. When flu is going around, make sure EVERYONE in your family is getting enough sleep. This is a big factor in being more susceptible to all kinds of acute and chronic illnesses.
  3. Hydration. Dry air thins the mucus in your nasal passages and causes irritation, which makes it easier for flu to penetrate this protective layer. In addition, influenza viruses can survive on surfaces longer in a dry environment than when the ambient humidity is high. So in addition to drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding diuretics like caffeine and alcohol as much as possible, and having stews, soups, and fruit to hydrate from the inside, you might also consider adding a humidifier to your home and office. Avoid any with the replaceable filters. These are usually treated with triclosan (now banned by the FDA) and other antimicrobials which can irritate lungs and worsen asthma, and have other adverse chronic health effects. You can pick up reservoir systems at most any pharmacy that can be easily emptied and cleaned weekly. Humidifiers help limit spread of flu as well as ease respiratory symptoms. Just don’t forget to clean them regularly.
  4. Skip the fish oil. If you are taking fish oil, this is a good time to take a hiatus. Its inflammation-modulating effects can weaken your immune defenses and actually make you more susceptible to infection.
  5. Vitamin D: make sure you are getting your dose! Read my previous blog on this subject here.
  6. Probiotics: they can help prevent colds and flu, or at least help limit duration. I prefer food-sourced products first, such as unsweetened yogurts with live cultures, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. Plus, they help keep you regular! What’s not to love.
  7. Don’t: do detoxes, use colloidal silver, and exercise caution about any over the counter combination manufactured homeopathic products.

This is just an interesting aside, but did you know that simply observing the act or sound of someone coughing or sneezing actually boosts your white blood cell count? Your body has an amazing ability to anticipate the need for defense.

Easing Flu Symptoms:

If you’ve already got it, don’t despair. Even if you’re an iron man, or a fitness/wellness guru, eventually your number is up. This is your excuse to stay home, snooze, sip tea and brothy soups, and binge watch episodes of Golden Girls…unless you’re a parent of young children. In that case, it’s just business as usual! Regardless, you want to get through this quickly and here are some tips to get you back in your groove:

  1. Warming/Wet Sock Therapy: This classic naturopathic hydrotherapy technique is great for draining pressure out of clogged sinuses and nasal passageways for easier breathing at night, and a way to skip the OTC decongestants (it often works better, anyway.) It might seem strange, but most kids love it! (Adults, too!) Click on the hyperlink above for my prior blog on this subject for information and directions in how to use this. Some have discovered a short cut of putting menthol on the soles of the feet, but I don’t think it works as well. Plus, mentholated topical products can be toxic for young children, so I don’t recommend their use.
  2. Most people are not very hungry during the flu, but it is essential to keep your hydration and electrolytes supported. Here is a link to some great recipes by local clinical herbalist, Maria Noel Groves: In particular, scroll down the page to find some very tasty broth and chicken soup recipes.
  3. Tea: most any herbal, non-caffeinated tea can be great when you’re not feeling well, with a big ol’ spoonful of honey. (No raw honey for kids under 2). One of my personal favorites is Throat Coat tea, or Yogi’s “Throat Comfort” tea. Both contain licorice, an antiviral herb great at soothing sore throats, but it can also interact with a lot of medications. It can also worsen blood pressure in some, so care needs to be taken here. Herbs like mint, chamomile, marshmallow root can be soothing and safe alternatives for most people.

A note about caring for children. For safety reasons, kids almost never require medication to treat coughs, pain or fever. Read this message from the FDA for more details about this. While uncomfortable, these are normal body responses experienced when the immune system is just doing its job. Research shows that giving medication for fevers can actually prolong the duration of illness. But if your child develops a fever of 102 or higher, you should contact his/her doctor for immediate guidance. If a child or adult you know has a nigh fever, becomes very lethargic, has difficulty breathing, or otherwise is showing signs of rapidly increasing illness, you should get him/her to the ER or an urgent care facility immediately.

Hope this helps to get you and yours comfortably through this flu season. As always, feel free to leave comments below.


Cora Rivard, N.D. is a licensed naturopathic doctor and owner of Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC in southern N.H. since 2006. She works with families from all over New Hampshire and Massachusetts who seek holistically effective solutions to healthcare needs and wellness goals.

She gets coughed and sneezed at more than she’d prefer, so she likes to share her techniques for keeping herself, and her patients, flu and generally virus-free as much as possible.

Ask a Naturopathic Doctor; “Should I Do a Cleanse?”

20 Feb


By Cora Rivard, N.D./Naturopathic Doctor. Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC in Derry

“What is a cleanse, and do I need to do one?” If you asked your family medical doctor this question, she or he would probably take a deep breath and then try to explain to you that unless you are about to undergo a procedure that necessitates prior emptying of the bowels, there is never a reason to “cleanse” the inside of your body. The physiologies of your liver, kidneys, intestines, blood, lungs and skin already do this for you without your help; the roles of binding, detoxification and elimination all steadfastly go on without your conscious attention, thank you very much.

This is my opinion as well. However, things can still get bound up, backed up, overburdened, and just plain exhausted in your body at times- even when they are usually running smoothly. Diet, lifestyle and medications can overload the cytochrome P450 system which determines the rate of certain types of detoxification that happen in your liver. People can feel tired and worn out; they can get constipated from dehydration, being sedentary, changes in diet, food sensitivities and many other reasons (see my previous post for more information here, “Get Your Poop On…”). Skin can sometimes get inflamed when irritants hang around from metabolic waste. Those with tendencies for bronchial spasms and irritations can become more reactive when the burden of irritants on and within the body becomes too high.

So in my experience, people can feel great after a “cleanse.” But I see this as more of a “kick off” to a commitment to better eating and living habits. This is when it is time to hit the reset button, get to bed at regular times, and get outside more regularly for exposure to nature and the natural rhythms of life. A “cleanse” is a ritual that helps you to prioritize your health and wellness by backing off  from the things that are unnecessary- the burdens of bad habits of mindless excess. It doesn’t require buying fancy kits and supplements. You don’t even have to plunk down $10,000 to join Dr. Oz at a posh health spa- it doesn’t have to cost you anything! But it has to be done carefully, and some “cleanses” can actually be quite dangerous. First, don’t do the following:

1. Don’t stop eating suddenly for extended times. Unless you have been culturally initiated to times of fasting, for many people, this kind of abrupt change can present some risky challenges. Your blood sugar could get dangerously low for your brain and you could pass out, or you could experience electrolyte imbalances that can cause a heart arrhythmia. Abrupt start and stop fasting methods can also precipitate gallbladder stones, and can cause harm to your metabolism. These are usually scammy yo-yo diets and they almost always lead to rebound weight gain.  (Watch out for all those tabloids in the check out line with headlines like, “Drop 10 pounds in 10 days!!!”)

2. Please, please don’t do any cleanse that involves swallowing tablespoonfuls of oil. This can actually cause your gallbladder to spasm and expel stones, which can then become lodged in your biliary system and wreak havoc. It is just not worth it.

3. Avoid colon hydrotherapy/irrigation. Is there a fire in your bowels? No? Then don’t do this! Your bowels do not need to be “washed,” unless you have a specific medical need to do so. The ecology of the intestines is delicate, and can be upset by forcing water through them at high pressure. Plus, this type of procedure puts one at risk for perforations, infections, and other unintended consequences.

4. You do not need to use vaginal douches. The vagina is supposed to have its own ecosystem which can be damaged with douching. It has a pH and natural secretions to help protect itself and maintain health. If you are suffering from yeast infections or other problems with smell or discomfort, speak to your doctor about it.

5. Avoid juicing diets. You don’t need all the sugar- think of this as similar to drinking soda all day. And, you are throwing away much of the great nutrition of the foods in the form of fiber and other important nutrients.

Now that you know what not to do, what can you do? At it’s core, doing a cleanse lessens the burden on your body so that it can better do its job to bind up, detoxify, and eliminate. A good rule of thumb is going for a month, but even 2 weeks, 1 week, Here are the most important points for doing a cleanse for your chosen period of time:

1. Avoid eating all junky foods. This includes foods with added sugars, fried foods, heavily processed foods that contain “non-food” ingredients, chemically processed foods. Warning: for the first week after giving up added sugars- you will CRAVE sugar like crazy. But after that, smooth sailing. In fact, your taste buds will adjust, and the old foods you enjoyed will actually taste too sweet to you.

2. Avoid eating lots of rich and meaty foods. These foods can settle heavily, and can take more resources to process in your body. It is good to lighten the load occasionally. You might give up all red meats for a month, or commit to eating just fish or poultry a few times a week, and then vegetarian the other days. Or even just practicing “Meatless Mondays.” The more adventurous could go totally vegetarian, but this takes some planning.

3. Get plenty of rest and quality sleep at night. This is essential to body repairs and optimal function.

4. Avoid alcohol, and if you can handle it- caffeine. Both of these things put a burden on your liver’s detoxification system, give it a break for a while. I also find that caffeine and alcohol use can frequently interfere with restorative sleep. Warning: sudden caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, exhaustion, and irritability. Even a reduction to one or 1/2 cup in the mornings if you are a multi-cup coffee drinker can be a big benefit.

5. Eat smaller meals, especially at night. Avoid excess.

6. Drink plenty of filtered water to stay hydrated.

7. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage. These are particularly great at assisting the liver to do its work. But, always go slowly when adding more fiber to your diet, you might get gassy, constipated, or even inflame your colon from mechanical irritation if you change your diet too rapidly. Check with your doctor first if you are taking blood thinners, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease. Go for steamed veggies, in small servings, once or even up to twice a day to start if you are not used to these foods.

8. Unlike longer fasting regimens, some people like to practice, “intermittent fasting.” This is where you mindfully fast from food and beverages (water is allowed and encouraged during this time) for certain regular intervals. A great way to do this is stay simple- one can try fasting for 12 or so hours a day (say, 7pm-7am.) By not eating or drinking (things other than water) within several hours of bedtime, you also reap the benefits of more restorative sleep.

9. For extra credit- go for the fermented foods. Be adventurous and throw some kimchi on your eggs, or serve a side of sauerkraut on the side of you chicken sausage. Try some unsweetened vanilla coconut yogurt with some fresh blueberries or cut strawberries. Try some kefir, or live culture plain yogurt. Adding in a regular source of fermented foods can help make your intestines function better, keep you better protected from colds, flu, and stomach bugs, and can make you feel happier as well!

And that is it! It is just that simple. Trendy cleanses and diets of the moment tend to avoid the most common food sensitivities and allergens. While there are inconsistencies and problems with many of these plans, people often feel great on them and lose weight in the short term because they cut out the junk food, many of the sweets, the alcohol, in addition to the most frequently reactive foods for people, such as gluten and dairy, coffee, soy and eggs. That is most of the magic right there. There is nothing wrong with these foods, except if you happen to be sensitive to them. If you’ve got questions about how you might be reacting to certain foods, best to consult with an N.D. or nutritionist to help you find the best fit nutritional plan for you, for your needs in the long term.

For those who are motivated and can afford it, I often recommend adding in massage, which is a great way to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph. Also try daily walks outside, regardless of the weather, meditation and mindfulness practice, and deep slow breath practice. And turning off the news, and social media, especially in the evenings.

I have become a fan of the recipe for Magic Mineral Broth 2.0 by Rebecca Katz. While she originally developed this veggie-rich recipe for use as a nourishing broth for those undergoing cancer treatment, she has updated it with more pizazz for her new book, : The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying, Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods [120 Recipes for Vitality and Optimal Health]. This has some great, nutritious recipes to use during your cleanse and well beyond for enhanced health and longevity.This broth can be a tasty, nutritious powerhouse for supporting your organs of elimination. (Enjoy it anytime!)

If you are looking for an interesting and tasty kale blend recipe, here is a fantastic one for Kale and Brussel Sprout salad. You can just leave out the sheep cheese if you are avoiding cheese. Really, even people who tell me that they don’t like kale and brussel sprouts, they like this one. If you are interested, I have a great article with some high protein smoothie recipes here. Go for one of these daily during your cleanse- they can serve as a meal replacement in a pinch. Instead of coffee in the mornings- enjoy some hot water with a fresh twist of lemon. Or, perhaps some ginger or green tea (caffeine levels are pretty low in green tea.)

Doing a cleanse can be a great way to help prevent and reduce seasonal allergy reactions, especially when started before the allergy season begins. For more information about how to prevent and limit allergy symptoms- read my previous blog article, “Nip Allergies in the Bud: 8 Tips for Relief.

*This article is not to be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor about any health concerns*

by Cora Rivard, N.D.



Study Finds Most Olive Oils are Falsely Labeled.

4 Mar

Chances are, your olive oil is an imposter. A report published by the University of California, Davis, in 2010 found that 69% of imported olive oils labeled as “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” were either not extra virgin olive oil, were rancid, or were adulterated with other cheaper oils. They studied 52 samples from 14 of the top selling brands in California to reach these conclusions. The imported brands were the most frequent offenders. The tested California brands had a fail rate of only 10%. This is the pdf of the original 2010 report from UC Davis.

Check out this NY Times infographic called, Extra Virgin Suicide. which explains how and why imported oils are adulterated with cheaper ingredients. Short, informative (and entertaining) to click through.

A follow up study (as pdf) by UC Davis was done in 2011 to expand on the original by taking more samples of fewer brands, for more accurate results. This was sponsored by a few of the leading California brands that tested well, by the way.

Here are the brands whose samples failed the extra virgin oil tests:

  • Bertolli
  • Carapelli
  • Colavita
  • Filippo Berio
  • Mazzola
  • Mezzetta
  • Newman’s Own
  • Safeway
  • Star
  • Whole Foods brand olive oils
  • Pompeian Olive Oil

And, here are the winners:

I did a little more research to learn about how to shop for olive oils. There is some consensus that olive oils confer the best health benefits when they are fresh, preferably less than 18 months old. Low temperature cooking is fine for culinary reasons, but the health effects come from consuming it raw: drizzle it over salads, or use it as a dipping sauce. The taste should have a fresh, fruity or even “grassy” flavor with at least a slight pepper-spice sensation in the throat. (Some can actually feel quite spicy!)

The container it comes in is also an important consideration. Glass or stainless steel is best. Plastic can leach chemicals into the oil that can be detrimental to health. If glass, it is best if it is darkened to protect the oil from degradation from UV light. If clear, it should be stored in a darkened area. Olive oil loses some of its benefits if it has been heated or stored in temperatures over 90 degrees. Here is some further reading material on the pros and cons of packaging.
So, what IS in that bottle on your counter? Without a lab or a trained nose, you won’t know for sure, because imposters can be artificially flavored and colored. However, if you put it in the fridge and it solidifies- you will at least know you’ve got an monounsaturated oil that COULD be olive oil (or it could be peanut, safflower, canola- which are cheaper monounsaturated oils.)

The takeaway message here is to avoid buying imported olive oil, unless you really know and trust your source. If possible, look for olive oils that are less than 18 months old, and preferably contained in darkened glass bottles. Organic domestic brands might be your best bet, for freshness, taste, health benefits, and for general safety.

When the Moon Doesn’t Hit Your Eye Like a Big Pizza-Pie

12 Feb


While nearing the holiday that celebrates romantic love, I am reminded of the many ways corporations and media exploit these powerful feelings to drive sales: Victoria’s Secret. Penis pills. “Every Kiss begins with Kay (jewelers).” Fifty Shades of Grey. “Magic Mike 2”. The ever impressive stacks of “bodice ripper” romance novelettes in the used books bin of my grocery store. Screaming, bold-font headlines of checkout aisle magazines seem to suggest otherwise (Cheated!Pregnant!Hottest Beach Bodies!), but loss of libido is a relatively common concern for women (and men), and it is important to identify the potential root cause(s) or aggravating factors within the context of one’s overall health.

When I was a naturopathic medical student completing my preceptorships with practicing doctors, I remember feeling shocked by how many trial packages of Viagra were given out to patients in one oncologist’s office. There were always one or two drug reps from various companies waiting for him at any given point, and the office had a large closet stuffed full of free samples. What’s with all the Viagra, in an oncology practice?? He told me that many of his patients ask for this, and that it is a great opportunity to examine their cardiovascular health, as this is a major cause of sexual dysfunction in men.

For the purposes of this article, I want to now focus on a few common causes of loss of libido in women, because it is often not discussed openly anywhere else:

“It hurts.” Changes in hormones during the perimenopausal and postmenopausal years reduces lubrication, thickness and pliability of vaginal tissues. Using a lubricant that is water-based, and free of harsh chemicals during sex can promote more comfortable glide.They also help prevent urinary tract infections by protecting the urethra from mechanical irritation. Using a daily vaginal personal moisturizer with vitamin E is also recommended (this may be used in lieu of a separate lubricant- but it may not give the same “slip” factor), as a means to keep delicate tissues supple and comfortable. Surprisingly, I still encounter women who are prescribed conventional hormone replacement therapies (HRT), even though this has been conclusively shown to increase the risk of stroke and heart disease in well-defined, large studies. Naturopathic doctors are often able to help their patients ease these problems with careful supplementation and botanical medicine. For those who need a little more support, prescribing very small doses of bio-identical hormones to be applied topically directly to vaginal tissues is usually enough to improve tissue flexibility, thickness and lubrication, without the significant increase in systemic serum hormones seen in more conventional dosing regimens.

“I’m too tired.” Lack of sleep, being too busy, having low iron, thyroid problems and heart disease can all cause problems here.  Your doctor can help investigate whether there is a treatable medical condition contributing to your loss of libido. Meditation techniques can help alleviate stress responses that sap energy. Another common cause, especially for new moms, is feeling “touched out.” Sleep deprivation combined with having another human being constantly attached to your body and literally sucking the life out of you, can throw sex pretty low on the priority scale. This has to be an evolved reaction- a survival technique to help block another pregnancy from happening too soon. Time, sleep, and having some babysitting breaks might help get through the sexual desert faster.

“I’d rather just read my book.” Sometimes, health and functions are fine, but the interest just isn’t there. It can be that things have simply gone into a rut. One of the ways to combat this is to do something different together, and it doesn’t have to be sexual. Trying a new adventure, activity or interest together can be enough to jazz up more interest. Feeling warm and comfortable also helps; a study led by Gert Holstege from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that warming feet (by wearing socks) increased rate or female orgasm to 80% of participants, up from 50%! Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can also reduce libido as a common side effect. This is often a big reason that naturopathic patients are seeking alternatives to continuing with their antidepressant medications. Physical contact through dance, or massage, can be another great way to feel closer again. Essential oils such as ylang ylang, rose and cinnamon can add sultry scents to massage oil to help the mood, but it is really all about what scents appeal to each person- whether it’s floral, vanilla, bacon, or “new car smell” (why yes, that really exists as a product!) And when an extra boost is desired, a small dose of bio-identical hormones applied topically can add the extra, “Va-va-voom.” Sharing intimacy with a cherished partner can happen in many ways over the years, and change is OK. It does not necessarily mean that there is a problem if you don’t feel like you did in your 20’s anymore, or feel exactly as you did during the early courtship days of your relationship. But keeping the lines of communication open and supporting each other is key. Don’t forget the vaginal moisturizer and/or lubricant.

And there’s always “Fifty Shades of Grey.”*

*(The author has never actually read or seen, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, but social media contacts seem to like this one. 😉

Cora Rivard, N.D.

Ease Sinus Congestion Naturally with Warming Sock Therapy

14 Jan

sick kid

by Cora Rivard, N.D/Seasons Natural Healthcare,LLC in Derry. N.H.

This is part #1 of my blog series for using classic naturopathic techniques of home hydrotherapy, or water therapy, to improve wellness and reduce discomfort. The main idea of hydrotherapy is to move circulation in ways most beneficial for resolving a problem. We’ll start with one of the favorite ones for this time of year:

Wet (or Warming) Sock treatment for nasal and sinus congestion relief:

This can be used for both children and adults with colds and flu, it works very well to improve ease of breathing and restful sleep at night, without the need for medications. Very important: always make sure that feet are already warm before beginning this treatment- you can use a warm water soak to prepare as needed.

Preparations. In the evening before going to bed, prepare by having a pair of cotton socks and a pair of wool socks. They must be at least 90% cotton and 90% wool, respectively.

Step 1. Soak the foot part of the cotton socks in cold tap water and wring them out thoroughly. Place the socks close to the basin or bathtub used in the next step. Note: If your feet are already warm, you can skip to Step 3.

Step 2. Put your feet into a basin or bathtub of hot water to warm up your feet. Soak them for a few minutes until they are comfortable hot

Step 3. Remove your feet from the hot water and quickly dry them off. Immediately put on the cold wet cotton socks, and then over them, put on the dry wool socks.

Step 4. Go directly to bed and keep the feet covered through the night. The therapy does not work if you or your feet are uncovered, such as when walking around or sitting in a chair uncovered.

When the Wet Sock Treatment procedure is followed correctly the feet will start warming up within a few minutes of getting covered in bed. The congestion will usually start to be relieved within 30 minutes. It will often work better than a decongestant or antihistamine to relieve congestion during sleep. In addition, it is not uncommon to see a small child or infant fall immediately to sleep after they are put to bed with the Cold Sock Treatment. After approximately four hours the socks should be totally dry, the feet warm, and the symptoms will be much improved (if not gone).

If necessary the Wet Sock Treatment can be repeated through the night or used on consecutive nights. In repeating the treatment in the same night or if an illness starts during the night, it is not necessary to warm the feet in hot water since they will already be warm. Simply apply the wrung out cold wet socks and the dry wool socks and go back to bed

Instant Sinus Pain Reliever

Here is one that you can use anytime of the day or night to help clear your sinuses:

You will need: 2 bowls of water- one hot, one filled with ice. Keep a washcloth in each.

While reclining comfortably, wring out the hot cloth and drape over bridge of nose covering cheeks, eyes and forehead. Relax and breathe in the steam comfortably until cloth begins to noticeably cool- maybe 1 or 2 minutes. Then, remove warm cloth and wring out cold cloth, and apply the cold to the same area- this time gently rubbing your sinuses. Replace hot cloth back into hot water to soak, or heat up under a faucet. Do this for about 20-30 seconds. Repeat process 2 more times. Always start with hot, and end with cold.

Explanation: Hot water causes surface blood vessels to dilate and release excess heat from the body. Ending each cycle with a cold water “searing” causes those surface vessels to then constrict, creating a pump to help mobilize areas of congestion and move circulation.

I hope you find this post useful!  Writing educational blog posts is one of my creative outlets. I am a licensed naturopathic doctor (N.D.) who has been serving the healthcare needs of families in southern NH and northern MA since 2006. I help my patients find the safest and most effective resolution for their health problems- i.e.- getting to the underlying cause(s) of issues, while at the same time improving their overall wellness. My area of expertise is using natural, non-medication-based therapies whenever possible.

This is an informational article only and should not be taken as medical advice in any way. Always check with your doctor to make sure that a therapeutic technique is safe for you to try. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.

How Green Smoothies and Gluten-Free Foods Can Cause Kidney Stones

13 Jan

green smoothie

It’s January, and we heave a collective sigh as we pat our bellies and remember the over-indulgences of the holidays. As you resolve to make healthy changes, lose a few pounds and get in better shape, please consider the following information to avoid some unnecessary and painful complications:

Beware the green smoothie/juice: I am a fan of green smoothies. However, there is a real danger of causing kidney stones by consuming too many ingredients high in oxalates day after day. Oxalates are naturally-occurring substances in foods that are highly reactive and bind up with minerals like calcium, creating crystal complexes which can cause pain as well as inhibit calcium absorption in the body. While many people easily excrete these from the body in the urine and stools, there are a few foods that contain very high levels which may overwhelm one’s ability for clearance. This is especially true for those with genetic predisposition for impaired clearance. Antibiotics, which damage the intestinal flora, also impair the body’s ability to process oxalates. While these foods are fine to enjoy periodically in smoothies and in the general diet, try not to make a habit of consuming these every day:



beets and beet greens




Beware the gluten-free diet: In addition to those with celiac disease, some people are intolerant to gluten and find that they feel much better and reduce objective signs of disease by going gluten-free. However, some of the whole grain alternatives to wheat products are grains and legumes that are very high in oxalates. Some of the highest levels can be found in:





nuts and beans (not including green beans)

Again, these are grains that are very nutritious to health, but should not be eaten in excess.

Vitamin C? I often meet patients who have read that it can be helpful to take large doses to support their immune system. As it turns out, according to a couple of studies, vitamin C might increase stone formation in men (curiously, not in women) when taking higher supplementary doses. This is probably because some individuals metabolize vitamin C into oxalates.

Finally, although not related to oxalates, beware of diets that try to extol the virtues of high amounts of animal meats. This extra load of protein can also lead to kidney stone formation, as well as robbing important minerals from the bones and increasing risk of osteoporosis. High animal meat diets also boost the relative risks for breast, prostate and ovarian cancers.

by Cora Rivard, N.D./Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC

Naturopathic Doctors Offer Effective Solutions for the U.S. Healthcare Crisis, and for Patients

2 Oct

In 2013, The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution ( Res.221-113th ) that officially designated a week in October as “Naturopathic Medicine Week,” to “recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective and affordable health care.”

In honor of its 2nd year in recognition from Oct. 6-12th, 2014, members of the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Doctors will be hosting events throughout N.H. You are invited to attend an event to learn more about naturopathic medicine, show your support, and most importantly to enjoy yourself and meet some wonderful doctors! Please scroll to the bottom of this article to see a listing of events.

What’s a naturopathic doctor?

This is a question I am often asked in social settings. After almost 10 years in practice, I realize that my answer has become more concise over time…and that is not easy, because there is a lot to take into consideration. As licensed naturopathic doctors, we attend four years of post-graduate medical school at one of the four accredited institutions for naturopathic medicine in the country. We are taught the basic medical sciences, clinical skills, and rotations necessary in any conventional medical school curriculum to manage disease, pathology, and public health principles. However, we chose this particular healthcare track to also learn as much as possible about wellness, and ways to best to support that in our patients. This means many additional hours, squeezed in during the days, the evenings, weekends and any extra time we have to learn extensively about nutrition, counseling skills, motivation, teaching skills, healthy lifestyle directives, hands on techniques, botanical medicine, homeopathy, and more. From the professional athlete, to those battling end stage cancer, from newborns to those of advanced age, we know that each office visit is an opportunity to improve health and life satisfaction for our patients. We offer a unique and expanded “wellness tool set” that may also include the occasional use of medications and medical procedures, when deemed necessary and according to our training and scope of practice. This allows N.D.’s to routinely solve many problems not adequately addressed by a conventional medicine approach.

For example, if a patient comes in with a rash or hypertension, as N.H.-licensed doctors we understand when and how to refer to specialists or to prescribe conventional medications to control these symptoms if needed. We also understand that these medicines, while helpful in certain cases, can have dangerous side effects for some and often lose effectiveness after extended durations of use, which necessitates even more medications and interventions.

My colleagues and I are trained to resolve these issues (and many others) primarily with natural medicine strategies. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. This requires us to spend the time to get to know each patient, past medical history, health habits, genetic predisposition, nutrition, lifestyle and stressors- because all of these variables significantly impact the presenting symptoms, as well as the direction and course of treatment. This is what holistic medicine is about: recognizing that there are many aspects of one’s beliefs, habits, actions and lifestyle that can either support the body’s attempts to heal and maintain wellness, or be detrimental to it. We also know that it is a jungle out there when trying to find answers about using natural medicine safely and effectively, and as the most highly trained experts in this area, we are the best resources available in guiding our patients.

On a bigger healthcare issue, naturopathic doctors offer huge savings for an overtaxed healthcare system by greatly reducing need for more expensive drugs and procedures (estimated up to 73% savings!. At the same time, naturopathic medicine provides better outcomes in long-term health and wellness. (Click HERE for an extensive list of studies and citations regarding this, in pdf format:)

Conventional medicine is a gift to modern times in the U.S. It has designed strategies to throttle and prevent fatal infections, save lives from serious physical trauma, and vastly improve quality of life for those with disabilities. However, these highly advanced and costly interventions are insufficient to address the rising burden of chronic disease in our culture. It is time to open more discussions about how naturopathic doctors offer a unique set of skills and real solutions for the problems that plague our personal health and the state of our country’s health care system.

We are lucky to be in N.H., which is one of only 18 states that currently regulates naturopathic doctors. All participating doctors must graduate from an accredited naturopathic medical school, pass rigorous national board exams, and maintain sufficient continuing education to remain eligible for licensure. In the other states, even someone with no training may call themselves “a naturopath,” which is confusing and dangerous for the public. (You may use this link from our national professional association to find practicing doctors who are eligible for licensure by zip code, regardless of whether you are living in a state that requires licensing.)

Oh, and my answer when someone asks me, “What’s a naturopathic doctor?”

I am a doctor who helps patients identify and remove the obstacles that stand in the way of their optimal wellness, and a specialist in the safe and effective use of natural medicine to solve health problems.


For more information about education and licensure of N.D.’s, and for naturopathic medicine in the news:

To visit N.H.’s state professional organization’s list of licensed N.D. providers:

By Cora Rivard, N.D.

Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC in Derry, NH

phone: 603-736-7770 email: website:


Monday October 6th: 6-7pm
Open house at Vibrant Health Clinic with Dr. Andy Chevalier, ND
501 Islington St. Suite 2B, Portsmouth NH RSVP: (603)610-8882

Wednesday October 8th: 6pm
Informational talk with Dr. Angela Lambert, ND : “Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System”
Hampton Natural Foods 845, U.S. 1, Hampton, NH 03842

Tuesday October 7th: 4:30-6:30pm
Open house at Concord Naturopathic Clinic with Dr. Jacqueline Rho, ND
46 Main St. Concord, NH 03301 Phone: (603) 228-0407

Wednesday October 8th: 6-7:30pm
Open house at Just Naturals & Co. Meet & mingle with a few local naturopathic doctors.
176 S. River Road, Bedford, NH 03110 RSVP: (603)606-1345

Monday, October 6th from 5:30-8:30pm with Dr. Margrit Miklus of Living Natural Inc.

22 Concord Street, Nashua, NH 03064. Phone:(603)594-0002

You are invited to join us for tea, light refreshments and great conversation in celebration of Naturopathic Medicine Week.


Tuesday, Oct. 7th through Thursday, Oct. 9th, 10am-11am, as available

Morning Tea Time with Dr. Cora Rivard at Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC

43B Birch Street,, Suite #3G Derry, NH 03038. Phone: (603)736-7770

Click this link to book a 15 minute complementary 1:1 consult, and to sip some fresh, fall herbal tea!

How to Protect Children With Asthma From Enterovirus D68

24 Sep

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

Many parents are concerned about the current outbreak of Enterovirus 68, particularly those who have children with asthma. While most who are infected suffer nothing worse than mild cold symptoms, a small percentage of children will experience more serious complications. However, there is much we can do as parents towards preventing these complications from happening. As a naturopathic doctor, I am writing this article to help parents use natural medicine strategies effectively to protect their children, with a conscious focus for those with asthma. While I use the following techniques to help guide my own patients, this information should NOT be taken as medical advice for the reader, and should not replace the advice of your trusted family doctor, pediatrician or asthma specialist, who knows your child’s history and needs best. This article focuses on prevention of infection from most respiratory viruses, including those such as Enterovirus 68 (EV-D68):

1. Make sure children with asthma are up to date with immunizations
. While there is no vaccine for this particular virus, there are vaccines for pertussis (DTaP and Tdap), influenza, and pneumococcal vaccines (PSV23), which can help protect a child with asthma from dangerous complications of these illnesses. An interesting note is that certain natural medicine techniques outlined below, particularly vitamin D and probiotics, have been shown in studies to significantly improve a child’s immune response and protection from vaccinations. If possible, it is desirable to get these vaccines during a time of year when colds and flu viruses are generally not as active, as children are more likely to get symptoms of a viral illness in the 2 weeks following an immunization. This also goes for the weeks following any pediatrician visits, because, let’s face it, doctor’s offices are a great place for viruses to mingle! If you need to make appointments to see your child’s doctor, try to get the first appointment slots in the morning, especially on a Monday, to reduce exposure. Fewer sick patients in the hours before your visit means fewer viable viruses on surfaces and fewer sneeze/cough droplets in the air.

2. Have a plan of action for preventing inflammation. Have a discussion with your child’s pediatrician, allergist or pulmonologist about the best way to prepare and dose medication should they become ill. It is important to prevent inflammation in the lungs that can occur with even common viral illnesses, this is key to preventing complications. In addition to rescue medications, I like to recommend botanical medicines that can be used at the first appearance of cold symptoms to soothe airway reactivity and inflammation. A couple examples are: bromelain (taken away from food) and tumeric. (It is recommended to use herbs only under the direction of a professional knowledgeable in their actions, safe use and dosage.) Giving extra vitamin C can also be a good support, 250mg or more per day depending on age.

3. Improved lung fitness. Keep kids active. Regular aerobic activity (to tolerance) during the school months helps kids to improve their tolerance to exercise-induced asthma as well as their tolerance to other triggers. Using game exercises such as blowing through a straw (examples: keeping a feather afloat, or paper ball races across the floor) can also help improve and protect lung function. Ask your pulmonologist for advice on specific exercises that are appropriate for your child’s condition and ability.

4. Vitamins D and A. AAP recommendations are for 400IU per day for children for vitamin D, but I think 600IU is a better recommendation for those 4 and older. The 600IU recommendation level for children aged 1-18 is supported by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which sets the U.S. government’s official nutrient guidelines. That’s about the equivalent of six glasses of fortified milk. To supplement,  I recommend that my patients use the D3/cholecalciferol form as it is the most easily absorbed. A multivitamin that contains direct vitamin A (not just beta carotene), is also a good choice for helping the mucus membranes to block viral infection. I like cod liver oil for kids; it is the one way to take supplementary vitamin D and A in a natural form. When choosing a cod liver oil, I am very picky due to concerns over heavy metal contaminants in fish. The only two brands I trust for reliable third party screening for contaminants in every batch, and for sourcing fish from the safest ocean areas, is Carlson’s and Nordic Naturals. (Carlson’s can be found in many health food stores, Nordic Naturals can be purchased online, eg. Amazon- Nordic Naturals Actic-D orange or strawberry flavor.) Use half the recommended dose for an adult for a child over the age of 2. Beware: cod liver oil does have a strong taste, and the fishy smell is difficult to remove from clothing in the case of a spill.

5. Zinc: Finding children’s multivitamins that contain enough zinc is challenging. Ideal children’s supplements should contain at least 3-5mg daily, take daily with a meal throughout the cold and flu seasons. Zinc levels are often low in those who have an over-reactive/allergy-prone immune system. This over-reactivity blazes through the body’s zinc stores, which then increases general allergic reactivity, which makes children more prone to becoming infected by viral illnesses- a nasty cycle.

6. Avoid excess sugar: especially when a lot of viruses are circulating. A sugary dessert or snack can interrupt your child’s body’s ability to mount a defense to an infection for hours after a single sweet treat!

7. Sleep. Getting enough sleep is crucial. Stick to your child’s routine and be especially careful about participating in activities that will upset this routine during cold and flu seasons. Poor sleep is one of the biggest risks for getting sick, even if you do everything else right.

8. Combining natural medicines: Probiotics, especially those containing lactobacillus cultures, help protect children with asthma in 2 ways. First, taking probiotics helps to direct the activity of the immune system away from an allergic response, and towards a more viral defense response. Second, it has been shown in studies to protect children and adults from respiratory infections, as well as a host of gastrointestinal infections. These organisms have a syngergistic protection effect when taken with elderberry, a botanical anti-viral. (see #10 for a great elderberry tea recipe.)

9. Wash hands often. Washing with soapy, warm water is always better than hand sanitizers. I recommend that patients use coconut oil as a hand cream/oil in the winter months as it is a fantastic antibacterial, limiting growth even against C. difficile and staph infections. I don’t know how it does against viruses…but worth a shot. Tip: because coconut oil hardens in winter-time room temperatures, try this: liquify a small block of virgin coconut oil in a pan over low heat. Pour into a bowl and whip it with a mixer until light and fluffy. Spoon into a couple of small jars and use throughout the winter. (I also like to add in a little vitamin E oil and vanilla extract before mixing.) Voila! You now have an awesome-smelling, all-natural antimicrobial hand and body cream. Use daily after washing hands or showering.

10. Honey. Kids who take a teaspoon of (real) honey daily enjoy a reduction in incidence and duration of upper respiratory infections. (don’t ever give to children under 1). It also works as a great cough suppressant, and helps to loosen mucus. Tip: add honey to the following recipe for an immune boosting winter Red Tea (with hibiscus and elderberry). Thanks to Maria Noel Groves, clinical herbalist and owner of Wintergreen Botanicals, LLC in Allenstown, NH, for the recipe. And, “A Market” in Manchester has bulk hibiscus and elderberry available for purchase- I called ahead to confirm!

Red Tea
This tart, fruity tea soothes sore throats and helps fend off viral infections.

  • 2 teaspoons hibiscus
  • 1 heaping tsp elderberry
  • 16 ounces boiling water

Steep for five minutes, strain, sweeten with honey and cool.

Another elderberry favorite I have is Sambucus Immune syrup by Nature’s Way: I give my own child one teaspoon daily at the first sign of infection, or whenever we know we’ve been exposed to someone who is sick. Taking it with food makes it easy on the stomach, and it tastes quite good.

11. Children with asthma should avoid swimming in indoor pools while sick, or during high seasons for upper respiratory infections. The chlorine may cause irritation of the lungs. There is also a byproduct formed when chlorine and chemicals in body sweat and urine combine that is especially irritating to the airways of children. Frequent exposure to indoor swimming pools actually increases risk of asthma in children, and worsens symptoms in those who already have it.

*A note about fish oil: while fish oil can be helpful for some patients, I generally don’t recommend taking it without good reason during the fall and winter months. Fish body oil has different properties than cod liver oil; it has inflammation-modulating properties that can be helpful at times, but it can also increase the rate of infection from respiratory viruses. Those inflammatory pathways actually help protect from the initial stages of infection. Cod liver oil does not have this effect, and is instead protective.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Q&A about Enterovirus D68

Recipes For Immune Teas and Winter Health by Maria Noel Groves/Wintergreen Botanicals, from Tea Magazine Jan./Feb. 2013

Micronutrient Chart for Children ages 4-13, Linus Pauling Institute:

Article from the American Academy of Pediatrics website: Many Children have Suboptimal Vitamin D Levels

American College of Allergy, Asthma,and Immunology: Time in Chlorinated Pool Ups Teens’ Asthma Risk

WebMD News: Chlorine in Pools May Cause Breathing Problems


Did you find this article useful? Would you like to see more like it?  If so, please support my work by leaving your feedback and comments below, sharing this article with others, and most importantly, discussing these topics with your friends, your family, your coworkers and your doctors. I know that it is a jungle out there when looking for valid information about natural medicine topics. I have a passion for writing, and I hope to help as many people as possible to better care for themselves and their families with the information presented in these articles.

Kid’s Sunscreens: How to Choose and What to Avoid

29 May


Chemical ingredients are often present in sunscreens which are potentially carcinogenic, have hormone-like actions, or are generally irritating to sensitive skin because of perfumes and colorings and other additives. This warrants a little diligence in choosing a product to use, especially for use on your children.

EWG (Environmental Working Group) rates cosmetics and other products for safety, and can be a good starting point for researching a topical product. Anything you put on your skin, you are also absorbing directly into your body’s tissues and circulation. Chemicals with hormonal activity can absorb far more efficiently through the skin even in tiny doses, compared to swallowing a substance. This is because the liver neutralizes and helps to clear out excessive or toxic substances when something is ingested orally. This system of protection is largely bypassed when a product is administered directly onto the skin surface.

Now, when you smooth a chemical substance over your child’s skin- they have a greater surface ratio, more sensitive skin, and are generally more vulnerable to the harmful effects of hormone disrupting substances than you are. So, if you are using something frequently on delicate skin surface, it is worth your while to research it a little further. One ingredient in particular to avoid is oxybenzone- a synthetic estrogen, which is present in more than half of all sunscreen products.

The following article has some further helpful advice in selecting a product for kids::
My pediatrician taught me to avoid SPF’s over 30 or 50, because they are very drying to the skin. Also, sunscreen should be applied liberally- don’t be afraid to glop it on. Reapply regularly, especially after being in the water, this goes even for water resistant formulas.

So which one to choose? According to EWG’s list- some of the very worst picks include the sunscreens made by Aveeno, Banana Boat, CVS brands, Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic, and surprisingly- even Alba Botanica. In contrast, some of the best rated include commonly found products by Badger, All Terrain, Ecco Bella, and The Honest Company.

And, summertime is ripe for exposure to poison ivy and poison oat or sumac. The best thing you can do is to stock a great big bottle of Tecnu Skin cleanser. You can find it in most drug stores. If you or your child has been exposed to poison ivy, or even when the rash starts to come out- use this stuff and it should stop it in its tracks. It removes the offending oils from within the skin. You can also use it on pets, and to wash clothes. Highly recommended!

For natural mosquito repellent, products that contain lemon eucalyptus are the best, Repel makes a great one. And they smell pretty good! It does require frequent reapplication- it will work great for about an hour or so, and then you will need another coat.

Have a great summer!



Get Fit, Lose Weight, Better Sleep: The Top 5 Free Android Apps for 2014

17 Apr


You don’t have to be Oprah to have your very own dedicated personal trainer, nutritionist and health coach at your beck and call, thanks to your phone! Best of all, many of the best apps out there are free. See below for the top 5 list among my patients. (There are a couple additional apps I’ve included here that are IPhone only, or are not free.) And I will be mentioning zombies, FYI.

Please feel free to comment on your favorites- I’d love to hear your thoughts about what has worked well for you!

Lose Weight:

1. Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal: FREE. Android. simple to use, extensive food databases, it even has a bar scanner! excellent reports and tracking, and add a dash of accountability and fun by making it social- you can connect with your friends and family and make it a team effort. This is a favorite with patients!

2.Restaurants & Nutrition : Fast Food Calories , Calculator for Food Score plus BMI for Weight Loss: $3.49. Android. This app can help you choose the best dishes, easily and quickly, when you are dining out. This is especially helpful if you are diabetic, but is appropriate for anyone who would like support with calorie counting and nutrition while on the go.

Sleep Great:

3. F.lux: Free for Windows. Also available for Mac, IPhone, Ipad. This program is great for supporting the circadian rhythm and getting you to sleep. Say what? Well, when you look at your computer or phone screen, that bright blue light wavelength stimulates your brain via the optic nerve into thinking it is daytime and therefore time to be alert for the hours ahead. This causes a lot of problems with insomnia in many people who use devices at night, it is like chugging a steady flow of caffeine. This program syncs with your local time to change into a more softer, reddish hue after sunset, which does not stimulate your brain in the same way as blue light. I love this program- I can get to sleep much easier now, even if I am up late on my computer.

4.Deep Sleep and Relaxation Hypnosis by Mindifi – Focus, Relax, Lower your Stress, and Cure Anxiety with Meditation (Kindle Tablet Edition) . FREE (but just for the first session, which you can use over and over.) Additional sessions cost extra. Android, Kindle Tablet. Great for calming the mind when you are having a hard time letting go of work, or stressful thoughts in general. Good way to sample self-hypnosis for better sleep.

5.Relax Melodies: A white noise ambience for sleep, meditation & yoga. FREE. Android. Not only do you get a wide selection of soothing noises and melodies to relax you, or use as background white noise- you can also layer noises to your preferences.

Get Fit:

6.RunKeeper: FREE. Android. This is not just for running, you can use it to track your fitness goals with any sport or activity. This app uses GPS to map distance, speed, route and calories burned during your workout. You can also connect with other users through Facebook and keep a page on Runkeeper to share workouts with the community, if you choose.

7. Zombies, Run! $3.99. IPhone. Zombies, Zombies, Zombies! I just had to add thiseven though I don’t have any experience with it. If you need some extra motivation to keep running, how about trying to save the human race from the zombie apocalypse? Run supplies and other tasks, and get chased by zombies in this immersive game. It has a story line that helps you to look forward to your next session, to find out what happens next…

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

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